Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards 2010
The Haiku Society of America sponsors this annual award for excellence in published haiku, translation, and criticism. This page includes judges' comments for the awards.
Return to archive of Merit Book Awards archive.
For full details about the contest rules, see Mildred Kanterman Memorial Merit Book Awards.
Merit Book Awards for 2010 (for books published in 2009)
2010 Kanterman Merit Book Award Winners judged by Mike Dillon, Indianola, Washington
First Place ($500)
The First Place Award is made possible by LeRoy Kanterman, co-founder of the Haiku Society of America, in memory of his wife Mildren Kanterman.
It's standard practice, at this point, for the judge of a literary contest to note how difficult it was to pick the winners. Now I know: There is often a great deal of truth behind those obligatory disclaimers. As judge of the Haiku Society of America's Kanterman book awards for 2010, I thought the winnowing process would be easier than it was; that the stack of books "Not in the Running" would quickly mount toward the ceiling while those "In the Running" would remain a tidy foothill. Exactly the reverse happened.
This year's submissions were impressive in power of craft and perception, of lived moments that invite the reader in. W. H. Auden famously wrote, "For poetry makes nothing happen," but the English poet wore his self-satirical mask when he wrote that. More than looking for haiku that touch all the right notes—kigo, yugen, sabi, etc.—I looked for haiku that made something happen inside the reader, that triggered some incremental shift of understanding. Otherwise, what is the point?
There is an account of a Native American elder who, when asked why the stories of his people were so short, replied: "Because we know so much."
A writer of good haiku will know much.
First Place ($500)
Live Again, by John Stevenson. Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2009, 64 pp. Foreword by Carolyn Hall. Perfect softbound, 5.5 x 8. ISBN: 978-I-893959-83-5, $12, <http://www.redmoon- press.com>.
Some haiku are written from the outside, clamoring to get in. John Stevenson writes from close to the bone, sometimes from the marrow. In Live Again, Stevenson gives us memorable moments drawn from everyday life that reveal our exis- tential loneliness.
Readily accessible, seemingly effortless, Stevenson's haiku touch that unnamable confluence where our outer and inner worlds meet.
Second Place ($100)
Pacific, by Ce Rosenow. Hillsboro, OR: Mountain Gate Press, 2009, 72 pp. Introduction by Michael Dylan Welch. Perfect softbound, 5.5 x 8.5. ISBN: 978-0-9643357-2-1, $14 plus $2 s & h. <www.mountainsandriverspress.org>.
This is a modest book in what it proposes to do—reflect life in all its moods beside the Oregon Coast—and in its understated modesty lies a powerful undertow freighted with mono no aware, a deep appreciation for life's beautiful impermanence.
in this kiss
a year older I brace myself against the undertow's pull
Third Place ($50)
A Gate Left Open, by Alice Frampton. Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2009, 72 pp., saddle-stapled paperback, 4.25 x 6.5. ISBN: 1-978-893959-85-9, $12 <www.redmoonpress. com> or the author $12 plus $1.50 s&h U.S. and Canada; $3 elsewhere.<firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Frampton's small book is a moving human document that lets the reader walk in her shoes and look upon this fleeting world with bracing honesty.
white lies . . .
Best Criticism (Tie)
Walden by Haiku, by Ian Marshall. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2009, 272 pp., hardback, 5.5 x 9. ISBN 978- 0-8203-3288-8, $28.95 <www.ugapress.org>
In Walden by Haiku Marshall, a professor of English and environmental studies at Penn State Altoona, has produced nearly 300 haiku extracted from Henry David Thoreau's Walden. Marshall's book opens up new insights into haiku, Walden itself, and the haiku-veins embedded in the 19th-century prose of an American master. In the second half of the book Marshall explains his methodology behind each haiku.
Haiku and Modernist Poetics, by Yoshinobu Hakutani. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, 195 pp., hardback, 5.5 x 8.5. ISBN 978-0-230-61655-4, $8 <www.palgrave.com>.
Haiku and Modernist Poetics is a book that was waiting to happen. After exploring the development of haiku in Japan, Hakutani devotes chapters to W. B. Yeats and his Noh plays, Ezra Pound, Jack Kerouac and the Beats, Richard Wright and others. As with R. H. Blyth's Zen in English Literature and Oriental Classics, Hakutani examines facets of Western literary tradition through the prism of Japanese culture. It is gratifying to see Richard Wright's haiku receive increased critical attention.
Seeing Stars, edited by Michael Dylan Welch. Seattle, WA: Haiku Northwest, 2009, 20 pp., hand-sewn paperback, 5.5 x 8.5. No ISBN Not available for purchase.
This category was a tough call—there were many worthy entries. Any Red Moon Anthology is the elephant in the room, and White Lies, the 2009 edition, is superb. But Seeing Stars by the Haiku Northwest group, produced from a retreat in Seabeck, Washington in October 2009, had enough break-throughs to be an upset winner. Publishing haiku incubated during a weekend retreat carries inherent dangers: Seeing Stars, however, which reflects the group's "galactiku" theme, took chances and produced fresh surprises.
Full disclosure: I am listed on the Haiku Northwest roster. I attended one Haiku Northwest meeting several years ago but otherwise maintain what my dear wife terms my antisocial ways. I publish a group of community newspapers in Seattle. The first thing editors and writers are told is: We don't logroll or do favors for people. I've carried that inviolate principle over into my haiku life and my role as judge, in this case. It was the work itself in Seeing Stars that carried the day for me.
your hands on my body
Special Award for Fiction